Should creators complain about their jobs?


While many creatives and aspiring creatives suffer from unpredictable incomes, pay differentials, and burnout, the public image of the influencer lifestyle is often one of luxury — taking paid vacations, being invited to exclusive events, and having free stuff at your door every day. While this level of financial success is unusual for YouTubers, simply by posting short, funny videos on a random topic, a lucky few can be rewarded with more money on a video than the average person makes in a month, or sometimes even a year .

Despite this enviable lifestyle, wealthy influencers face a lot of criticism — especially when they complain about their jobs. Creators sometimes risk alienating their audience when they talk about their workload or the pressures they face online.

Recently, popular TikTok creator Mikayla Nogueira (@mikaylanogueira), who has over 13.6 million followers, was cornered after a video resurfaced in which she was responding to a critic who suggested she do a “9 -to-5” job. Complaining about her busy schedule, Nogueira concluded her tirade by saying, “I just finished work, it’s 5:19. Try being an influencer for a day. Try it.”

As expected, it was not well received. Nogueira’s original video was deleted, but a repost that some users said was taken out of context has garnered 2.8 million views, and critics were quick to clapping Nogueira back.

This isn’t the first video that has surfaced of an influencer complaining about the work that goes into the job. Earlier this year, influencer and OnlyFans creator Tara Lynn faced a similar backlash for a TikTok in which she complained, saying “nobody wants to work anymore” and telling her Kim Kardashian-style followers to “get.” [their] Ass up and work.”

She has since posted an apology video, explaining that what she said came off wrong and that her comments were aimed at other influencers and not the general public. Lynn did not respond to Passionfruit’s email request for comment.

Those not involved in the creator economy likely have little to no idea what makes a successful influencer. The work that goes into it is often not visible. As Nogueira explained in a follow-up video, she tried to explain that her job as an influencer is actually a job — one that comes with its own difficulties and responsibilities. Nogueira did not respond to Passionfruit’s email inquiry.

To understand the complexities that come with being an influencer, Passionfruit spoke to a few content creators with their own experience.

23-year-old Scott Kress (@scottkress_) posts full-time on TikTok after going from 0 to 1 million followers in just a few months. He started posting relatable comedy skits a year and a half ago, and after signing with a management company in Los Angeles, he now has 3.8 million followers.

“When I was younger and looking at influencers, I thought their lives were so perfect,” Kress told Passionfruit. “It looks so easy; They make so much money and just live their lives in Los Angeles. But then, once I started doing it, I realized that there’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t even know was going to be stressful that ends up being stressful.”

Hours of brainstorming, photography, editing, networking, interacting with followers, and collaborating with brands can take their toll. Although social media influencers hold a privileged place in the public imagination, wouldn’t everyone be doing it if it really was as easy as it seems?

“The job itself is not strenuous. It’s more mentally taxing, and I think that’s really hard to understand unless you do it,” Kress said, adding that he recently first turned to anxiety medication to cope with the pressures of the job will. “Because influencers are so privileged we get to pick our own schedule and I don’t have to worry about bills because the money is decent, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with difficult things as well.”

Beneath the shiny exterior lie precarious incomes, wage differentials and unpredictability. In an April 2022 report, the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) department noted a “pervasive lack of employment support and protection” in the influencer industry. With a lack of industry standards and low wage transparency, wage inequality is also a key issue influencers have to grapple with. The DCMS report referenced a 2020 study by MSL Group, a global PR firm, which found that there is a 35% racial pay gap between white and black influencers.

“Your entire career and income is based on views, so making sure your videos do well and putting out ideas that you think will do well becomes stressful,” Kress said. “How much money you make is not only directly related to how many followers you have, but also how many views you get per video. You can have a few million followers, but if your videos only get a few views, you can’t ask that much for a brand deal.”

In addition, the existence of the product you are trying to sell is subject to intense scrutiny and the risk of hate and harassment. Daria Kuss, a psychologist and Associate Professor at Nottingham Trent University, told Passionfruit about the impact of social media on creators.

“People who use social media frequently are at higher risk of developing symptoms of addiction, depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia. … The ‘fear of missing out’ and constant upward comparisons can also contribute to potentially diminished self-esteem, which can leave users and influencers feeling drained and drained,” Kuss said.

While creator Kress is grateful every day for doing what he does, he said his biggest stress is the inconsistency. “Not even in terms of money, but more in terms of the stress of how long this is going to take,” he said. “My career depends on people liking me, and people can change at any time. Maybe in a week people just won’t find you funny anymore and it could all go away in an instant.”

This fear of losing visibility can lead to overwork and issues like burnout for influencers. Influencers work largely without their phones and can connect to their workspaces at any time of the day or night without the need for an off switch or disconnect between work and life. In a 2022 study conducted by affiliate marketing platform Awin Group, 78% of influencers said they suffered from burnout, with 66% admitting the problem is bad enough to affect their overall mental health.

Advice for creators hoping not to get burned out by the 24-hour social media cycle includes passionfruit reporters being found online, streamlining your content plan, focusing on one platform at a time, content planning upfront using organizational tools, batch building content, and delegating tasks that you can delegate to someone else to free up time for creativity.

Workload management strategies are essential on a challenging, turbulent creative career path. dr Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, told Passionfruit that social media careers are risky and high-pressure.

“While such careers may seem glamorous, influencers walk a tightrope by constantly creating ‘perfect’ content,” Manly said. “Influencers live under immense pressure to constantly produce content that is engaging, novel, and real—while striving to please everyone and offend no one.”

26-year-old Ilinca Sipos (@inkytoks) films seven days a week, 10 videos a day, in addition to a full-time job in marketing.

“There are a lot of things I do that don’t end up being posted,” Sipos told Passionfruit. “When you see someone filming, you see the end product, not the intermediate. …Having turning points in the voice, grabbing people’s attention, getting them to stay on your video, conveying the right amount of emotion, that’s definitely part of the job too.”

Influencing is a job, not a side job. Aside from that, Ilinca and Kress both agree, there are a lot tougher jobs out there. As your own boss, you can let your hours work for you. You are responsible for how much you work and what you work on, often for extremely generous compensation. Even when you’re not working, you’re usually still generating passive income from your existing content. It’s easy to see why influencer complaints hit such a nerve.

“I think people don’t really want to hear influencers complain about their jobs because other people also think their jobs are tough but they also can’t pay their rent this month. That’s tough and really why I don’t think how hard influencers work should be a public discussion,” Ilinca said.

She continued, “As a public figure in any capacity, the people who watch your videos are the people who helped you get to where you are. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to turn around and complain to them.”

The influencer’s life has an undeniable appeal that people love to experience vicariously. But people’s tolerance for ignorance of the wealthy is limited, especially as the economy continues to collapse, the cost of living and inflation are higher than ever, and wages are lagging behind.

In the UK, inflation recently climbed into double digits for the first time in 40 years and is expected to hit 15% in 2023. Similarly, US inflation hit 9.1% in 2022, marking another 40-year high, according to data from JP Morgan. This squeezes people’s budgets and drives up the cost of living.

Many have lost the joy of voyeuristic observation of affluent lives that are often so far removed from reality. According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 Creator Earnings Report, full-time content creators earn an average of $108,182 per year.

In other words, the average annual income of a full-time creator is 78% higher than that of an average bartender. But without an immediate answer to a problem as big as labor exploitation, venting that frustration on a simple target doesn’t help anyone.

“In an environment where spotlight is given to mistakes or inconsistencies, and public condemnation can quickly be destructive, many influencers feel the daily pressure of impending criticism,” Manly told Passionfruit. “In view of this, none of us is perfect, maybe now is the time to graciously give influencers the right to be imperfect and human.”

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Jaclyn Diaz

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